Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) are bombarded with information daily on diets for PCOS, which foods are the best for PCOS, and even shown many examples of meal plans for PCOS. Despite the endless free information available online, many women with PCOS remain confused because of how conflicting most answers are!
This blog will help you review PCOS diet tips and gives pointers on what a PCOS meal plan should include.
- What Is PCOS?
- Can You Beat PCOS Using Food As Medicine?
- What’s The Best Diet For PCOS?
- Download the PCOS Meal Plan PDF Below – Complete with Recipes
- Personalized Nutrition Coaching for PCOS
What Is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal and reproductive condition that involves multiple organs as well as a part of the brain such as the pineal gland or hypothalamus, parts of your metabolism, and hormones. PCOS or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome has been called “one of the leading causes of female infertility”.
It’s estimated that at least 10% of women have PCOS with up to 70% remaining undiagnosed.
What Are The Symptoms of PCOS?
The symptoms of PCOS can be both disruptive and uncomfortable; many women feel they don’t belong to their bodies. PCOS is a complex hormonal syndrome that can lead to many symptoms, including irregular periods, excess hair growth, acne, weight gain, and difficulty losing weight.
Other Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Symptoms
Other PCOS symptoms may include hair loss, fatigue, acne, excess hair growth, and mood changes. It can also make it harder for people to get pregnant and can negatively affect their mental health if left untreated.
Many women with PCOS feel they don’t belong to their bodies. Women with PCOS can also feel incredibly isolated as many of their friends or family may be unaware of the condition and how it affects women’s bodies.
What Are The Different Types of PCOS?
There are four different types of PCOS:
- Phenotype A or Classic PCOS
- Phenotype B or the Other Classic PCOS
- Phenotype C or Ovulatory PCOS
- Phenotype D or Nonhyperandrogenic PCOS
The severity of the types decreases as you descend from phenotype A to D with the highest severity for phenotype A and the lowest severity for phenotype D. Read more about the different types of PCOS and how to treat PCOS in our previous blog.
What Causes PCOS?
The exact cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is not known.
There appears to be a genetic link but to make matters more complicated, there is no 1 gene that is linked to PCOS but rather multiple gene combinations meaning that polycystic ovarian syndrome is considered a “poly-genetic” syndrome.
Women with PCOS may have a female family member with polycystic ovary syndrome or a male family member with early hair loss or balding.
Women with PCOS may also have family members with diabetes. You can also read our other blog on the conditions linked with PCOS.
PCOS symptoms are driven by insulin resistance, high levels of androgen hormones, and chronic inflammation.
PCOS is not caused by weight gain or a diet that is higher in sugar or highly processed foods!!! You did not cause your PCOS.
Can You Beat PCOS Using Food As Medicine?
You cannot cure or beat PCOS; however, you can learn how to manage polycystic ovarian syndrome! Even weight loss or menopause cannot cure PCOS.
How Diet Can Impact PCOS Symptoms
While a healthy diet can effectively reduce PCOS symptoms, a lifestyle change is also important to manage polycystic ovary syndrome.
Women with PCOS can manage their polycystic ovary syndrome by lowering stress, making sustainable nutrition changes, balancing blood sugar, and adding safe supplements for PCOS.
You do not have to pursue weight loss to improve insulin resistance and hormonal imbalance.
What Is A PCOS Diet?
The PCOS diet tips are not only about calories and weight loss. It is also about reducing insulin resistance and blood sugar levels which will help with weight loss, as well as regulating periods.
A good PCOS diet plan or PCOS meal plan should focus on controlling your blood sugar levels, improving insulin resistance, improving inflammation, and supporting balanced hormones.
Frequently Asked PCOS Meal Plan Questions
What are the best beverages for PCOS?
There are no “best beverages” for PCOS; however, special consideration should be given to how much or how often you enjoy sugar-sweetened beverages since they will spike your blood sugar and insulin levels.
This does not mean you can “never” enjoy beverages with sugar or calories; you may need to be a little more intentional with your portions or when you have them.
Some of my clients prefer to prioritize eating sugar in food form and whereas others wanted to keep their caramel macchiatos but they lowered them to 1-2 times per week.
Should I Try A Vegan Diet For PCOS?
Not unless you want to! A vegan diet will help you eat many more vegetables, beans, lentils, soy products like tofu or edamame beans, nuts, seeds, and fruit. Read more about a vegan diet for PCOS in our blog.
All of these foods can
- boost your fibre intake
- improve your gut health
- fight inflammation
- stabilize your blood sugar
There is a downside to the vegan diet though. You will need to plan more to get enough protein and if you are planning on getting pregnant, you need to be careful to ensure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals for the baby and you!
Should I Try A Keto Diet for PCOS?
I answered this one later on!
Can I Lose Weight with PCOS?
Absolutely, you can lose weight with PCOS. You may need to practice more patience as insulin resistance and high androgens can make this process difficult but it is possible.
Many of our clients have succeeded by focusing on the process instead of obsessing over the scale. It is much easier said than done but we help our clients embody this mindset through the Edge Nutrition Method.
Can I Cure PCOS?
I answered this question above!
Should I go dairy free or gluten free for PCOS?
I answer this one below!
Foods to Avoid If You Have PCOS
Carbs and PCOS
You do not need to go on a keto diet or a low carb diet to treat PCOS! In fact, cutting out all carbs might make your cravings or emotional eating worse.
You will have so much more energy, lower cravings, and a better mood when you switch to high-quality carbohydrates most of the time! Trust me, low carb is a 1-way ticket to struggle city and generally, feeling sh*tty.
Sugar and PCOS
You do not need to cut out all sugar to treat PCOS either! The same as above, you will find your craving levels go through the roof!
We know that sugar can make PCOS symptoms worse so here is a phrase that many of my clients find helpful “You can eat anything you want, but maybe not everything (and still reach your goals)“. This can help you make more balanced decisions
Gluten Free and PCOS
You do not need to go gluten free if you have PCOS but you do need to go gluten free if you have Celiac disease. There is a lot of misinformation out there that gluten causes inflammation which would not be a good fit for women with PCOS. Inflammation can further increase testosterone and insulin resistance which are the driving factors of PCOS symptoms!
The issue is that gluten does not increase inflammation in ALL women with PCOS. If you are struggling with gut health issues, you could benefit from discussing with your doctor about testing for Celiac disease or working with a Dietitian to help you determine your food sensitivities! Read more about the link between IBS and PCOS here.
Dairy Free and PCOS
You do not need to remove all dairy if you have PCOS but it can be helpful if you struggle with symptoms of high testosterone like acne, hair loss, and hair growth on the face or body.
Read more about treating acne with nutrition here.
Foods To Include In Your PCOS Meal Plan
Get ready for some more good news; you can eat anything with PCOS!
There are a lot of foods that will help you manage your POCS symptoms.
The best foods to eat if you have PCOS are:
- Healthy fats like olive oil or fatty fish
- Lean proteins like eggs, beans and lentils, shrimp, lean red meat, poultry, dairy, and fish.
- Fibre from plants, whole foods, and high-quality carbs.
- Fun foods or extras that help you satisfy your cravings and enjoy life!! The amount and how often you have these is up to you.
Tips for Losing Weight with PCOS
Here are a few of my favourite tips for weight loss with PCOS are:
- Track your food to learn if you are eating or snacking mindlessly. If numbers are triggering for you, write it out in a journal or spreadsheet!
- Have a high protein breakfast (at least 21 grams)
- Switch most of your carbs to high quality and minimally processed carbs such as having quinoa, farro, or buckwheat more often vs. instant rice.
- Manage your stress levels
- Get enough sleep
- Portion 50% of your plate at lunch and supper from non-startchy vegetables
- Move in a way that you enjoy and feels good every day! That could be walking or weight lifting or dancing!
- Practice patience because it may take longer than you would prefer
- Get support from a PCOS Nutritionist
What’s The Best Diet For PCOS?
I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that it lacks the structure or rules that many people find helpful to get started on their nutrition journey.
The good news is that no 1 diet has been proven through randomized controlled trials (high-quality research studies) to be the best diet for polycystic ovary syndrome so you have many options!
Can an anti-inflammatory diet help PCOS?
An anti-inflammatory diet includes any diet that is higher in nutrient-rich and minimally processed foods can have a positive effect on gut health, blood sugar control, improve insulin sensitivity, and balancing hormones.
But it is important to remember that any nutrition changes you make need to fit into your values, goals, culture, and preferences!
Mediterranean Diet for PCOS
A Mediterranean diet is rich in whole grains, beans and lentils, vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, and healthy fats like olive oil.
Low Glycemic Index Diet for PCOS
A Low Glycemic Index diet focuses on carbs with a low Glycemic Index, meaning that these foods do not raise your blood sugar as much.
This can be very helpful when you are trying to learn more about improving your insulin resistance and PCOS symptoms. Plus these carbs will give you longer lasting energy throughout the day!
If you want to learn more about low GI carbs, here is a good place to start.
Who Can Help Me with a PCOS Meal Plan?
In any assessment with women, our PCOS Nutritionists screen for signs of high androgen levels and insulin levels. If your PCOS Nutritionist ever has concerns that you may have PCOS, we make recommendations for women to discuss their symptoms with their primary care provider since we cannot make any diagnoses as Registered Dietitians.
Our goal is to treat PCOS holistically, help our clients better navigate the healthcare system, and receive treatment for the “whole” of the condition instead of only 1 side such as fertility.
Our PCOS Nutritionists also try to help women understand their condition more thoroughly, dispel any diet myths, and develop compassion for themselves. It is a tough condition that is difficult to manage, beating yourself up or working with a healthcare provider who shames you in addition to these struggles is the last thing you need.
Summary of What to Look For in a PCOS Diet Plan
- Whole Foods
- Improve Blood Sugar Levels
- Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Download the PCOS Meal Plan PDF Below – Complete with Recipes
What’s in the Free PCOS Meal Plans Guide?
- PCOS Breakfast Ideas
- PCOS Lunch Ideas
- PCOS Dinner Ideas
- PCOS Snack Ideas
Personalized Nutrition Coaching for PCOS
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder that affects women of reproductive age.
While the most common PCOS symptoms are irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth, body hair growth, and difficulty losing weight, many women don’t realize they have it until they experience other concerns like infertility, ovarian cysts, higher blood glucose levels, or high blood pressure. If you think you may have PCOS, it’s important to get diagnosed as early as possible so you can start treatment.
A holistic approach to treating PCOS is often the most successful, and I would be happy to chat with you about which treatment option might be best for you. Don’t suffer in silence – reach out today for a clarity call!
Together we can work on creating a sustainable plan that will help you break free from emotional eating, and PCOS cravings and feel better in your body than ever before.